Six suspected opioid deaths in Peterborough in first three weeks of 2019

Six suspected opioid deaths in Peterborough in first three weeks of 2019
There were 17 opioid overdose deaths in 2018 in Peterborough.

Peterborough Police say there have been six suspected opioid overdose deaths in the city in the first few weeks of the year. Police believe one of the six was intentional, with the other five being accidental.

“When you look at last year, 2018, we were at 17 for the city of Peterborough. (In) 2017, we were at 19 overdose deaths,” said Tim Farquharson, deputy police chief.

“We’re losing 11 people a day in Canada. I don’t see that changing. Communities between 50,000 and 100,000, including Peterborough, are seeing 2.5 times more hospitalizations for opioids than bigger cities.”

“It’s so lucrative. When you look at $12,000 to get a kilo of fentanyl in, pills can make between $10 million and $20 million. That’s an incredible amount of money,” Farquharson said.

READ MORE: Peterborough among Ontario cities with highest hospitalization rates for opioid poisoning in 2017

Peterborough does not have a safe or supervised injection site, which is one of the methods for communities to deal with the crisis.

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“Navigating treatment is a huge problem. Not having treatment on-demand is a huge problem,” Farquharson said. “In Peterborough, we’re just able to give them referrals to different agencies, a RAAM (Rapid Access Addiction Medicine) clinic, Fourcast or their GP. If it’s an overdose emergency, the emergency room, obviously. We can give them Naloxone.”

“We also talk about homelessness in Peterborough. If you go to the supervised injection sites in the bigger cities, which I have been to, the frontline workers will tell you homelessness is the number one thing. You can’t get to treatment without having a place of your own.  It’s a huge issue,” Farquharson said.

The City of Peterborough did a homelessness count in 2018. The count found there were 259 people living in homelessness, whether it was in shelters, on the streets or couch surfing.

The Warming Room on Murray Street is at capacity at this time of year.

“People, when they are feeling hopeless, often turn to things like drugs to get them through,” said Christian Harvey, director of the Warming Room. “When those drugs are poisoned, we’re seeing an increase in overdoses for the population we serve and it’s really scary.”

“Since July, we are seeing so many having overdoses. I don’t think they’re using differently. It’s the drugs they’re using that are being poisoned,” Harvey added. “We need to come together as a community to address that.”

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READ MORE: ‘It’s murder’: How lethal opioids devastated a small region of Ontario

Farquharson estimates addictions and mental health calls make up about 80 per cent of Peterborough Police calls. The amount of time officers spend on the issue is huge, he said.

“We have a five-man drug unit and two intelligence officers and an asset forfeiture officer — that’s several officers who spend 24/7 working on this issue,” Farquharson said.

Police are asking anyone who is experiencing an overdose or knows someone who is, to call 911 immediately.

Under the Good Samaritan Act, police will not lay charges.

“We want to target the dealers, not the vulnerable.”